While many of the classic off-road vehicles popular on trails even now were made right here in the United States, not all of the industry’s vintage gems can trace their lineage back to North America. But that’s what makes things interesting, does it not? Well this week, we decided to run with that theory and take a look at the British-born Austin Gipsy. Check out the Land Rover-esque British 4×4 below.
Produced from 1958 through 1968, the Austin Gipsy held a relatively small space in the off-road market. With just over 20,000 produced in its ten-year run, the Gipsy, therefore, remains a mystery to some.
Designed to compete against the original series Land Rovers, the British Motor Corporation Austin Gipsy was a steel-bodied 4×4 with an aesthetically-similar design to the Series I Rovers. Where the vehicle differed, however, was in its mechanics.
Under the Gipsy body, you could find a sophisticated independent front and rear suspension system featuring “Flexitor rubber suspension units” (which used two steel tubes, one inside the other, with rubber in between them to transfer the shock of the wheel to the chassis), trailing arms and semi-elliptical springs. The Gipsy also featured solid axles.
While this unique suspension system allowed the Gipsy to traverse rugged terrain quite nicely, it did give the vehicle a bit of a rougher steering characteristic. Axle travel was also limited compared to the Land Rover’s.
Under the hood, the Gipsy came standard with a four-cylinder (2,199 cc) overhead-valve engine with a compression ratio of 6.8 to 1. This engine was good for just 65 bhp and 111 lb-ft of torque, and could reach a modest 50 mph in 23 seconds. A four-cylinder (2,178 cc) diesel engine was also offered in the Gipsy.
Tied to the four-cylinder was a four-speed dual-range transmission with a single dry-plate clutch. This offered four forward gears in high and low range (selected by a lever on the floor).
The Gipsy’s four-wheel-drive was only available in low range, with a top speed with four-wheel-drive engaged of 30 mph. Four-wheel-drive was not available in high range.
Steel wheels wrapped in 16-inch rubber were standard to transfer the vehicle’s power to the ground, while hydraulic front brakes and a mechanical handbrake for the rear wheels gave this off-road machine ample stopping power.
The Austin Gipsy was a capable off-road vehicle and its simple mechanical design, (compared to others on the market) from engine to suspension, allowed it to become a front-runner in the multipurpose vehicle market of its time. Still, many vehicles went much further in the off-road world, including the Series II Land Rovers, which the Gipsy was meant to directly compete with.